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Politics After Tragedy

Sudden, shocking events that are cast by the news media, interest groups, and political leaders as “tragedies” can gain a great deal of attention. Events as disparate as oil spills, airplane crashes, natural disasters, technological disasters, and terrorism, or other mass killings, can lead people to seek to make sense of what happened, and why. In social and political life, we make sense of these tragedies by telling stories. Indeed, the term tragedy has a particular meaning among students of theater and rhetoric. A tragedy is a particular narrative form that involves a bad fate befalling a hero or a heroine. The ultimate tragedy is often the result of a series of mistakes or small upsets that build until the unavoidable, catastrophic end of the ...

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